True Odds: How Risk Affects Your Everyday Life (Practical Liberty) Kindle Edition
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and daffy oversimplifications". Structured around 16 particular topics, from
concrete concerns of individuals (violent crime; cell phones and brain cancer; secondhand smoke) to more general topics (moral hazard of insurance; lotteries are a tax on the stupid). A main focus is on the interaction between scientific data, media reporting, legislation promoted by interest groups, and regulation by government agencies. By presenting these case studies from recent history (1975-1995), the author provides an insightful overview of the real-world interplay of the scientific, psychological and political aspects of dealing with risk. This book is implicitly a well-justified polemic in favor of rational quantatitive risk assessment and against the media scares, extremist environmental lawyers and inflexible "command and control" bureaucracy that waste billions of dollars whose diversion from more rational use causes unnecessary death and suffering.
Though serious, well researched and an engaging read, I do have some quibbles. The
lack of explicit citations makes it unhelpful as scholarship. By mixing several
styles (historical case studies, discussion of scientific methodology, polemic) the
book appears somewhat unfocused. And the unusual typography (a typical page has
seven two-sentence paragraphs separated by white space) reinforces the impression
that the author was assiduous in collecting information but put less effort into
organizing a coherent narrative. Finally, the subtitle is misleading: a reader
seeking a straightforward, detailed and explicit analysis of risks in everyday life
would be better served by Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You.